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Oct 30, 2019

A Bug is Wrecking Havoc in the Sugar Industry Up North

Still reeling from a prolonged drought in which farmers stand to lose as much as fifty million dollars; the sugar industry is now battling with a pest known as a sugarcane looper. The bug has been wrecking havoc in acres of cane fields in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. According to the experts in the industry, the looper is not entirely new, but has flourished due to the drought. Its effect will be felt in the quality of sugar which is expected to decrease in the long term. Dalila Ical and Duane Moody worked on this reports.

 

Leticia Westby, Extension Coordinator, SIRDI 

“We know that the pest is here. The grass looper is severely affecting the entire sugar belt, Corozal and Orange Walk and for sure there will be huge losses attributed to the grass looper.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

These are grass loopers, also referred to as the Sugarcane Loopers which move in a looper fashion. These little caterpillars are pale green or brown in colour and feed on various grasses and when available, sugarcane. Tehere are various species and this little guy here and his looper friends are presently causing havoc within the sugar industry, eating their way through hundreds of acres of fields for some weeks now.

 

Leticia Westby

Leticia Westby

“We have been receiving reports from farmers in the second week of October. So, as the technical arm of the industry we decided to take action immediately. We did a quick assessment to the entire sugar belt which is called Corozal and Orange Walk on the twenty-second and twenty-third.  What we encountered is the entire sugar belt has the presence of the pest. Nevertheless, the Corozal District is the one that has the most presence which is in the high count or high economic threshold of this insect pest.”

 

They are not new pests, but this particular year, they have enjoyed the extended drought.

 

Leticia Westby

“When the drought conditions are here, as the name says, there is not enough rain or precipitation and that actually triggers for all insect pest to be present in the industry.  The incidence of this insect pest is increasing so it will have an impact but a complete magnitude and the amount of acres that will be lost will be  determined down the road.”

 

Eggs hatch in three to six days, then enter the larvae stage before pupating into a pale brown moth.

 

Marvin Garcia

Marvin Garcia, Extension Officer, SIRDI 

“The larvae which is the stage that causes most of the damage lives twenty to twenty five days in the larvae stage and those twenty to twenty five days, feeding day and night until it turns into the pupa stage.  One larvae can feed four up to five kilos in his whole life stage of being a larvae. imagine only one feeding on the mass green production, imagine you have hundred or a thousand larvae, what can they do in two, three days.”

 

Leticia Westby

“Let’s say the field is point five to three and a half months, it will recover. Leaves will come back, and if it is eight months above, the stalks are already defined so there wont be much of an impact when it comes to its production. But in the long term, it will decrease the quality of sugar.”

 

The rains are expected to decrease the number of larvae but farmers can take action to reduce the impacts.

 

Marvin Garcia

“If you have more than point five larvae per plant you can start your chemical control. That will be a fast knock down. We advice farmers to visit their cane field since this pest is an opportunistic pest where he moves through, pass through the grass where that is his primary host and from there, when we have big amounts, like right now the environmental factors are favorable for them to reproduce when they reach the cane fields they will also feed on the cane fields and devastate them in two, three days, depending on the population that we have.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


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